Meetings are invaluable for turning ideas into plans of action and collaborating with others on projects, but have you ever wondered if you could be getting more out of them? We’ve all felt tired and uninterested during a meeting at some point, so perhaps it’s time to use that hour (or more) to your benefit. Whether you’re a note-taker or a listener (or an occasional doodler) we have the answer to make meetings more productive.
Have you ever gone into a meeting with the intention of ‘going with the flow’, with no expectations of the outcome? Get more out of your time by gathering as much information beforehand and making notes on points that could be discussed further. If there’s an opportunity to get an outline of the meeting before attending, take it – the better informed you are, the more you will get out of the meeting. Being armed with information that could be needed during the meeting will also reduce the likelihood of repeat meetings. Win-win!
Be more proactive with note-taking
It’s normal to forget every detail discussed in a meeting, so it’s always a good idea to make notes. Establish what will be done following the discussion for each point discussed, even if this means taking 10 minutes after the meeting to create a plan of action and set deadlines. Web-based applications such as Trello, Slack, Evernote or Google Docs are useful for keeping ideas in one place to collaborate, communicate and share with others.
Try out new technology
Still on the topic of note-taking, whether you prefer to write or tap away on a device, it can be difficult to make a note and take in information. So why not trying something different? Recording meetings makes an interesting alternative (you can then use a transcribing app such as Speechnotes), just make sure you have permission to record.
It may sound obvious but make sure your devices are either turned off or put on silent if you’re not able to leave them somewhere else. Out of sight, out of mind! It’s not the end of the world when a device makes a noise, but as well as being a bit rude to those leading the meeting, it can be distracting and disrupt the speaker’s train of thought.
Stay on topic
Try not to digress into other topics – just discuss what is on the agenda, and if anything else crops up you can set aside time at the end or after the meeting to delve into it further.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
You may have a busy workload, but it’s important to focus on what needs to be discussed beforehand, especially if you haven’t visited the topic for a while. If you’re responsible for setting up, get it done in plenty of time – whether you need to prepare the room, set up your laptop or rearrange seating, it’s best to do it early. Also, prepare a jug of water with glasses (and perhaps some refreshments) so attendees don’t need to leave halfway through to get a drink.
Make the meeting work for you
If you have a say on when the meeting can be held, do so at a time that is best for you. If you tend to have more energy in the morning, fit it in then. If you’re sluggish after lunch and already thinking about the weekend on a Friday afternoon, then an earlier appointment at the start of the week would be a better fit. Also, keep in mind any other work commitments you have – make the meeting a priority and try not to set deadlines around that time, so you’re not rushed.
Speak up if you have an idea for a meeting which could make it more productive. Everyone takes information in differently – listening to someone speak alongside a presentation may not be your thing, but you could suggest an idea that may help yourself and others understand more clearly. If holding a meeting, you could send an email to attendees for feedback or opinions on topics for the meeting – this way they will be prepared to give an answer that they’ve had time to consider and won’t be caught off-guard. If a follow-up meeting is needed, be clear on what is required for next time. If you want to improve on your meetings, ask attendees to give their feedback at the end.
Meetings have a reputation for being stuffy, serious and boring. You may be discussing important topics but the meeting itself doesn’t have to be dull! Whether this means playing a game, going to a different location or even ordering a pizza for a change, why not try something more ‘fun’ in order to increase the engagement at meetings. Nice weather? Venture outside! Changing it up might just make that meeting more productive. Dynamic meetings will help you get the most out of those attending.
Why don’t you put these tips to good use next time you have a meeting? Let us know if you have any other suggestions of how to plan and conduct a meeting.